The National Football League would like you to believe that it is one of the foundations of human life, sort of like oxygen and water, food and shelter. And that is why it has shrugged off the coronavirus that has turned 2020 upside down. The NFL has played a full schedule, COVID-19 notwithstanding..
The football gods would not tolerate anything else.
And so, just because the Denver Broncos ran out of quarterbacks because of COVID-19 protocols and were forced to use a practice squad wide receiver as a replacement signal caller in a game against New Orleans, why that’s no big deal. That’s just a detail. Too bad for the Broncos. The game went on as scheduled.
The Baltimore-Pittsburgh game got postponed three times. It was originally in a marquee spot of Thanksgiving Day and wound up getting played on an also-ran Wednesday afternoon. Consider it a midweek bonus.
The San Francisco 49ers were ordered out of town by local authorities, which is why they are playing couple of “home’’ games in Arizona. There is also Dallas at Baltimore on a Tuesday night, another anomaly in the schedule.
So far, eighteen NFL games have had their original play date changed because of the virus. With just over a month left on the schedule, there is no telling how many more might have to change dates. The NFL is proud of its ability to move games around, as long as they get played.
This mobility is not something to celebrate. There is nothing wrong with hanging out the “No Game Today’’ sign when circumstances dictate that route. It’s OK to not play. The NFL has gone through lockouts and strikes, labor woes that have forced it not to play. The world survived. The globe continued to rotate on its axis without any major disruption.
During the month of November, 60 NFL players – that would include Denver’s four quarterbacks — have found themselves on the league’s COVID-IR list. The teams play a game of Next Man Up, when players get sidelined. The players are interchangeable, treated almost as cannon fodder to trot out every Sunday – or Wednesday, or Tuesday if that is necessary. Just as long as the games get played. Just as long as they are shown on television. Just as long as the networks keep on writing the broadcast rights checks.
It is a cynical approach to what has become America’s favorite sport. There was a time not so very long ago when what mattered most was the integrity of the game. What is the integrity of a game when some innocent practice squad wide receiver becomes the quarterback, just so the game can go on?
That is bad business and the NFL is, first and foremost, a very lucrative business.
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire